The Georgetown Hoyas (18-4, 8-3 Big East) followed up a sluggish first half by outscoring South Florida (13-10, 6-4 Big East) 52-30 in the second half en route to a 75-45 victory at the Verizon Center. The Hoyas attacked the Bulls with a balanced attack highlighted by resurgent performances from sophomores Nate Lubick and Markel Starks. Senior Henry Sims was one of five Hoyas in double figures with 13 points, also leading the team with nine rebounds and five assists.
The two sophomores have been struggling of late, with Starks’s point guard duties mostly relegated to senior guard Jason Clark and the majority of Lubick’s minutes falling to freshman Otto Porter. After picking up two early fouls, Starks found his shot in the second half, finishing with 10 points on the day. Though Lubick only scored five points, his offense came during a stretch where the Hoyas broke the game open in the middle of the second half.
On an offensive possession 11 minutes into the second half, Clark carelessly turned it over to USF’s Jawanza Poland, but then recovered quickly and intercepted Pollard’s pass. Seeing the Bulls’ defense out of sorts, he flipped it to Lubick for a strong layup, leading to a three-point play.
“I turned the ball over, got back and made a play, got a steal and they were out of sync trying to get back on defense,” Clark said of the play. “Nate was wide open under the basket.”
After that sequence, the Hoyas started dazzling the crowd, as a Jabril Trawick steal about two minutes later led to a Lubick dunk (and subsequent technical foul for hanging on the rim). About two minutes later, Lubick found a cutting Porter who then found Sims driving along the baseline for an easy layup. The stretch marked the team’s high point in picking apart a stingy USF defense that only allowed 59.0 points per game coming into the game.
Both teams came out the gates uneventfully, as a 23-15 halftime lead for Georgetown hardly reflected the poor shooting throughout. Georgetown was held without a field goal for a ten-minute stretch at the end of the first half, finishing with 34.8 percent shooting through 20 minutes. USF actually is notorious for their lockdown defense for stretches at a time, as they have held 20 out of their 21 opponents this season to stretches of at least four minutes without a field goal.
Despite shooting just 26.1 percent themselves, the Bulls seemed to have a great deal of momentum after an Anthony Collins layup at the end of the half left them trailing by only eight points. Asked if he had any concern with the halftime drought, head coach John Thompson III said it was simply a matter of waiting for the ball to go through the basket.
“We felt we were getting stops and we knew the shots were going to start going in,” he said. “I think they had 15 points at halftime and probably half of those we gave them, so as long as we get stops and rebounds, we’ll be able to score enough points.”
Thompson did not feel the early start had anything to do with the start either, adding that “The hoop is still 10 feet, they have five guys on the court, we have five guys on the court, so it’s the same.”
The Hoyas came out firing in the second half, though, and never looked back, finishing at a 65.2 percent clip. Much of the production came from another statistically-complete game from Otto Porter. The freshman finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block. Trawick and Mikael Hopkins also provided quality minutes off the bench for the Hoyas. Though as a whole, the team finished with just nine turnovers, Thompson characterized the mishaps as “careless.” Nonetheless, he credited his team with good passing throughout the game, as the team finished with 16 assists on just 23 field goals.
“This is a group that shares the ball, this is a group that doesn’t care who scores the points and this is a group where you can put five guys on the court that can score,” Thompson III said. “As long as we keep the moving and take smart shots and don’t turn it over, I think we had five guys in double figures and that just shows how unselfish and how together this group is.”
The Hoyas have no time for rest, as their biggest game of the season looms on Wednesday against archrival Syracuse. The game at the Carrier Dome is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN. A win versus the number two Orange would certainly be a season-changing achievement for the Hoyas, driving them up in both the rankings and the bracket come March.